As your internship ends, it is important to pause and evaluate your internship experience. I don’t mean just the evaluation your internship site asked you to do, but asking yourself important questions about your experience.
Every internship experience is filled with positives and negatives. Over the course of 8-12 weeks, you’ve gained new hard and soft skills to add to your resume. What I want you to pause and ponder about, are the intangibles that are not going to be listed on your resume.
What was the biggest challenge during your internship and how did you overcome it? Did you work on a difficult project, deal with with a co-worker you didn’t really like, or have a supervisor who didn’t seem to have enough time for you. What did you do? What would you have done differently? How would you handle that situation if it were your first real job out of college and not a short term internship?
Your personal evaluation is about moving beyond the surface, beyond the impressive PowerPoint presentation you made, to understanding how your life was impacted. The learning experiences outside of the classroom that prepare you for the real world workplace challenges.
Maybe your challenege wasn’t necessarily at your internship site. Perhaps you did an internship in a different city and your biggest challenge was transportation. I remember juggling an unpaid internship with two part-time jobs one summer. Even if the challenge was external, how will you approach your next internship or full-time job differently because of what you overcame?
Are You Still Excited About Your Major
Did your internship get you more or less excited about your major? Did you come away with a deeper interest or run away dazed and confused?
It’s one thing to learn skills in a classroom and another to actually apply them. Is what you are learning in school matching the work place?
Are there new classes that you want to add to your schedule now that you were exposed to something different?
Was your experience so bad that you think you want to change your major?
If you are having second thoughts about your career choice, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Give it one more chance. It could have been that the organization or company was too big (or small), the department was poorly ran, or they misrepresented what the internship was really about.
Let’s say that you are a finance major and ended up doing a lot of writing for your internship. You discovered that you loved writing more than working with numbers. No need to necessarily become a journalism major. Instead, look for elective courses in writing and/or journalism, and consider a minor if it works. In addition, you can join the school newspaper as contributor to the financal section to start earning bylines. You could also decide to start you own financial blog. Get creative with looking for ways to try out different interests.
Reality is the career you have been dreaming about just might not be that exciting. Give it another shot, but in a different work environment.
Testing the Waters
Part of the great thing about internships is testing the waters in different work environments. I did eight internships between undergrad and grad school. My experience as a public affairs intern for a large nuclear power plant was vastly different than my marketing internship for a private medical advisory firm. Both were places I may not have applied to work post college, but proved to be super interesting internship learning opportunities.
In addition to different types of work spaces, I tried out different fields. Although I was a public relations major, I did internships in public relations, writing, sales and marketing. I stretched and challenged myself beyond the familiar. I also wanted to be able to cast a wide net when it came time to look for a job.
If you think you want to dip your toes into another area, use your next internship to break out of the box and learn something different. Test your social media skills, learn to code, take a sales internship. Jump into something new and it could turn out to be your hidden passion.
Very quickly in my internship life I realized I hated being stuck at a desk all day. I needed variety and movement in whatever path I chose. As a result, when I started applying for jobs before graduation, I looked for jobs that would offer variety. I knew what type of work environment would allow me to thrive and what would be depressing. When I started my career in college admissions, I traveled domestically about 30-40% of the year.
The people I met also left impressions on me, good and bad. Some of my internship supervisors became mentors that I am still in contact with today. If you are still on the countdown to your last day, end your internship with a bang. It is important to keep the connections you’ve made going. Some of the people you met can also help you evaluate what you just experienced.
It is totally okay if the internship experience wasn’t all that you thought it would be. My multiple internships were all different, some better than others. All left an impression on me personally and academically and influenced my career goals.
My internships, my nearly 20 year career in higher education, time spent managing a non-profit internship program all led me to starting this blog and writing a book about my internship experiences. I would have never even considered higher education as a career option if I hadn’t interned in my college’s public affairs office for two years. You never know in the moment, the future impact your internship may have on your life. Keep an open mind, and keep going on to the next opportunity!